For the fellow nyerds among us, a few random thoughts on the Spidey cartoon coming up just as soon as I try on this spiffy new black costume...
When I originally got the "Spectacular Spider-Man" screener DVD, I passed on watching it for a couple of reasons. First, I'm swamped enough as it is as the Ledger's lone critic, and as we have a freelancer-written weekly column on kids/family TV, it's rare that I take the time to watch and write about anything in that area. Second, the last few Spidey cartoons were so dull that I didn't think it was worth it.
Had I only popped the DVD in long enough to watch the opening title sequence, featuring the amazing/spectacular/friendly neighborhood-ly catchy theme song (by The Tender Box), I imagine I would have been quickly hooked. Instead, I had to wait for the aforementioned recommendation from Alap, plus time for my DVR to snag enough episodes to make a decent marathon, and it totally lived up to Alap's description of it, which captures the show so succinctly that I'll quote it in its entirety:
as hard as it is to believe, this series has the same intelligence, emotion, and structural coherence that "batman: the animated series" had when it changed the way people think about children's animated television.The show, developed by Greg Weisman and Vic Cook, cherrypicks the best bits of Spidey continuity from his various incarnations, then throws in a few new (or extremely re-imagined) ingredients. Pete's still in high school, but now Gwen Stacy is the girl next door best friend (and unrequited love interest, though she's the one who's hot for him in this version). He works at the Daily Bugle (where Ned Leeds has become Ned Lee in an attempt to diversify the supporting cast), is still the victim of Flash Thompson's gang at Midtown High (which now includes Robbie Robertson's son Randy in addition to Kong from Ultimate Spider-Man), and has the usual stable of villains, though not everyone's quite the same. Montana from the Enforcers becomes The Shocker, Tombstone is the show's stand-in for either or both of Kingpin and The Big Man, and the Green Goblin isn't quite who you think he is. But all the changes and reconstituted elements flow together seamlessly in the same way the early days of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic did. It's not exactly the Spider-Man you might remember reading as you grew up, but it all makes sense in this context.
just watch the third episode, the one with the lizard's origin, which has the sharp, simple character moments--the teen drama between peter and gwen, doc connor's guilt-ridden relationship with his son, that most every saturday morning cartoon either doesn't have the time or doesn't care to squeeze into the story. plus, the animation style is super clean and broad, so the action scenes are actually pretty bracing to watch. honestly, it's the closest "ultimate spider-man" has come to being put to screen.
The show does a nice job of balancing the angst and the action. One of the few things I really enjoyed about "Spider-Man 3" was the opening aerial combat between Peter and Harry Osborn, which was one of the few times the film franchise captured what I always imagined to be the incredible speed and grace of Spidey in action. The cartoon, not having to rely on the laws of physics or the difficulty of matching CGI to live-action, really goes to town on the fight scenes. This is the guy who was able to dance around the entire roster of the X-Men in Secret Wars because he's so damn quick and agile and spidey-sense-enhanced, and it's a joy to watch.
The soap opera aspect of Peter's life, and the way nothing ever goes quite right for him, is in full effect, and nicely handled by a voice cast that includes Josh Keaton as Peter, Lacey Chabert (yes, that Lacey Chabert) as Gwen, Peter MacNicol as Doc Ock, Kevin Michael Richardson (Rockefeller from "Knights of Prosperity") as Tombstone, and Daran Norris (Cliff from "Veronica Mars") doing a hell of a J.K. Simmons impression as J. Jonah Jameson.
There's only one episode left in this initial 13-episode batch, a climax to the black costume/Venom story (the show's moving quickly in introducing as many villains as possible), but it should be in repeats for quite a while, and it's definitely worth a look for the spandex fan set.